A three-phase, three-year project to restore or replace windows at the 44th Street Clubhouse in Manhattan gets underway in 2020. This major restoration of a renowned visual component of the Warren & Wetmore-designed National Historic Landmark is the result of a commitment of members and other stakeholders, with financial support from the New York Yacht Club Foundation.
“This is another fine example of how we fulfill our mission of preservation,” says Matt Brooks, Foundation president. “Members today and tomorrow will have a historically significant, beautiful and structurally sound place to gather and carry out Club activities and traditions.” When finished, the restoration will rectify deterioration, rot, warping and operational issues. Where restoration is not an option, new windows will perfectly mimic the existing profiles and details of the original windows. The design incorporates long-lasting elements with crafted mahogany/oak frames and high-performance glazing. Benefits will include improved thermal and acoustical performance, as well as comfort.
A fine illustration of Beaux Arts neoclassicism, the 1898 building has been recognized for its architectural and historical significance and a “daring use of nautical symbols.” The front of the 44th Street Clubhouse is renowned as one of the most memorable facades in Manhattan, fusing art and architecture to express the building’s position and purpose.
In 1979, upon being designated a New York City landmark, the building was praised for the carefully executed asymmetrical composition of the façade as well as its prized monumental windows, whose reconstruction is a part of Phase Two of the project.
The extraordinary value of the monumental windows—which define the double-height space of the Model Room—cannot be understated, as the NYC Landmarks designation of September 11, 1979, attests:
“The three bays of columns are filled by large round-arched windows, the lower portion of which are pierced by elaborate bay windows set into sculpted framework depicting the sterns of fancifully carved baroque sailing vessels. Garlands of seaweed and shells hang from wave-like consoles, and dolphins spew into overhanging wakes of the departing ships. There are few examples of architectural sculpture in the United States which match these windows.”
Time and the elements have taken a toll on the elaborate glass windows of the seven-story building of Indiana limestone and brick. The monumental windows in the Model Room are composed of two sections—the upper, approximately eight feet wide and 14 feet high, is well-maintained and in excellent condition; the lower sections surrounding the banquettes, nine feet wide and five feet high, show evidence of deterioration and rot, with gaps between the wood and glazing. Recommendations for renovation of all Club windows were based on multiple surveys and on-site examinations by Barry Donaldson Architects and contained in a November 2019 report. In Donaldson’s expert view, a renovation employing modern technology isn’t just an act of necessity; it’s an undertaking for posterity’s sake.
“The great windows of the New York Yacht Club have withstood the forces of man and nature very well for almost 120 years, which is a testimony to how well they were designed and fabricated, but also to how well they have been maintained for more than a century,” says Donaldson. “However, the windows are showing their age in a number of ways, from cold, drafty and uncomfortable banquette spaces in winter and unnecessary energy costs to deteriorating window frames and sashes.
“So, it is timely that the restoration of these 19th-century windows respect the historic integrity of the originals with the most current glazing technology to ensure that they will continue to perform for the next 120 years,” he says. “High performance windows will be more comfortable, provide better sound insulation from street noise, will reduce energy costs, and complement the Club’s new climate control and mechanical systems.”
Phase One will include cleaning of the 44th Street limestone facade, replacement of the third floor Commodore’s Room windows, replacement of doors and windows from the fifth through seventh floors, and restoration of the windows in the Library, Commodore’s Room, Grill Room and Strangers Room. To insure their long-term durability and ease of operation, the original windows of pine will be restored or replaced with hardwoods of sapele and oak. All of the new windows will have high-performance insulated glazing.
Phase Two, as previously mentioned, focuses on the monumental windows in the Club’s iconic Model Room, home to its world-class collection of yacht models and maritime art. These windows are particularly complex. The architect is carefully considering the best approach for their restoration or replacement.
Phase Three focuses on all of the double-hung and fixed windows in the courtyard and north facades, completing the replacement project throughout the entire Club. The double-hung and fixed windows are being custom fabricated specially for the New York Yacht Club by Tischler und Sohn, one of the oldest manufacturers of custom windows in the world, in business since 1888. The custom windows will match the original dimensions and profiles of the windows designed by Warren & Wetmore.
To learn more about the 44th Street Clubhouse, read the excerpt from The Clubhouse at Sea by member John Rousmaniere. — Elaine Lembo